Weekend in San Diego can be carless, stressfree


By Steve Scauzillo, Staff Writer

You’ve arrived at your weekend getaway. After inhaling that complimentary chocolate chip cookie, you’re in the middle of a slow-motion swan dive onto your hotel bed where you sense the pillowy duvet hugging your road-weary body.

The last thing you want to do is get back in the car and drive to dinner or the museum. But in San Diego, you don’t have to.

Believe it or not, in car-centric San Diego, you can leave the minivan in the hotel parking lot and still enjoy the sights. That’s because a weekend vacation near the city’s restored Embarcadero can be carless and stress-free.

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St. Patrick’s Day Celebration at New York-New York Hotel

Celtic Feis, New York-New York Hotel & Casino’s, ultimate St. Patrick’s Day extravaganza, is back and bigger than ever with a five-day celebration at Nine Fine Irishmen March 13-17.

The biggest celebration of Irish culture on the Las Vegas Strip includes live entertainment, specialty cocktails and authentic cuisine. Entry is complimentary and open to all ages March 13 – 16, and starting at noon on March 17, admission is $10, which includes a pint of Guinness or a shot of Jameson for guests ages 21 and up.

“Celtic Feis at New York-New York has become an annual tradition that both locals and visitors look forward to,” said Brent Cook, executive director of food and beverage at New York-New York. “In addition to great Irish bands, festive libations and authentic food, this year will be especially exciting as two additional days have been added to the event, giving guests five days to spread Irish cheer.”

The festival kicks off Friday, March 13 with live entertainment beginning at 4 p.m. on the Brooklyn Bridge and will continue throughout the weekend. On St. Patrick’s Day, Las Vegas Pipe Band will lead a celebratory parade for all ages starting on the Mezzanine and continue through New York-New York. A Guinness toast will follow the procession.

Throughout the weekend, Nine Fine Irishmen will serve up favorite Irish fare such as Bangers & Mash, Shepherd’s Pie and Corned Beef & Cabbage. Guests can also enjoy specially priced libations including $10 cocktails, $8 domestic/import beers and $7 shots.

Performers providing nonstop music throughout the festival include Sine Ri-Ra, Patrick Sieben Band, Michael Johnson Band, Jim Buck and U2 Band. Below is the complete entertainment schedule:

 Friday, March 13

Nine Fine Irishmen

9 p.m. – 2:30 a.m.: Sine Ri-Ra

 Brooklyn Bridge

4 p.m. – 8 p.m.: Michael Johnson

8 p.m. – 12 a.m.: DJ (located at Swatch)

 Saturday, March 14

Nine Fine Irishmen

9 p.m. – 2:30 a.m.: Sine Ri-Ra

 Brooklyn Bridge

4 p.m. – 8 p.m.: Michael Johnson       

8 p.m. – 12 a.m.: DJ (located at Swatch)

Sunday, March 15

Nine Fine Irishmen

9 p.m. – 2:30 a.m.: Sine Ri-Ra

 Brooklyn Bridge

4 p.m. – 8 p.m.: Jim Buck

8 p.m. – 12 a.m.: Michael Johnson Band                    

Monday, March 16

Nine Fine Irishmen

9 p.m. – 2:30 a.m.: Sine Ri-Ra

 Brooklyn Bridge

4 p.m. – 8 p.m.: Michael Johnson       

8 p.m. – 12 a.m.: U2 Band

Tuesday, March 17

Nine Fine Irishmen

12 p.m. – 4 p.m.: Patrick Sieben

4 p.m. – 9 p.m.: Michael Johnson

9 p.m. – 2:30 a.m.: Sine Ri-Ra

 Brooklyn Bridge

11 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.: Sine Ri-Ra

4 p.m. – 7 p.m.: Patrick Sieben Band

7 p.m. – 12 a.m.: U2 Band

For more information visit newyorknewyork.com.


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Destination Germany reports record numbers of stays

The volume of international travel to Germany reached a record high for the fifth year in a row in 2014, with a total of 75.6 million
overnight stays.

The USA, which remains the biggest overseas market for Destination Germany, continued to grow strongly, with its travelers making nearly 246,000 more overnight stays in Germany than the previous year, as part of a total volume of 5.2 million in 2014.

According to the German Federal Statistical Office, the number of overnight stays by visitors from abroad in accommodation establishments with ten or more beds went up by 3.7 million in the period from January to December, a year-on-year increase of 5.1 per cent.

Petra Hedorfer, Chief Executive Officer of the German National Tourist Board (GNTB): “Once again we are able to look back on an outstanding set of results – our record in 2014 provides further evidence that Germany has arrived in the top tier of international travel destinations.

Arrivals went up by 4.6 per cent. This means we are comfortably above the comparable growth rate for Europe, which the UNWTO puts at 3.9 per cent, and on a par with the global growth rate of 4.7 per cent.

The latest UNWTO forecasts suggest that the international travel market will expand by between 3 and 4 per cent in 2015. We will build on last year’s strong performance and take a bigger than average cut of this growth.

This will lay the perfect foundation for our long-term outlook of achieving 121.5 million international overnight stays a year by 2030, which we believe is a realistic objective.”

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Renovated Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac continues to impress


By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

Quebec’s Winter Festival gave us an excuse to stay at one of our favorite hotels, the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac. It’s been a while since we visited this historic hotel, which sits inside Old Quebec, the only city north of Mexico whose fortified walls are intact.

We discovered the beautiful grand dame has undergone a multimillion-dollar renovation. Its 611 rooms and suites now offer the latest technology while keeping its historic European elegance.front

Standing tall above the skyline of Old Quebec, it may be the most photographed hotel in the world. It’s one of the chateau-style hotels built for the Canadian Pacific Railway company and a sister property to our favorite, the marvelous Banff Springs Hotel.

Perched high atop the St. Lawrence River, the Frontenac offers spectacular views across the frozen seaway. Even better, it’s just down the street from Bonhomme’s World, the festival’s centerpiece.

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Bohomme Carnaval welcomes guests to Quebec’s Winter Carnival


By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

Frosty the Snowman has nothing on Bonhomme Carnaval, the iconic snowman of Quebec’s Winter Carnival. Like Frosty, Bonhomme invites children of all ages to come out and play in his fantastic winter wonderland every year.

Since it began in 1894, the Carnaval de Quebec has grown into the largest winter carnival in the world. Since then, the inhabitants of New France have enjoyed getting together just before Lent to eat, drink and be merry.

This year’s grand celebration offered more than 200 events from Jan. 30 to Feb. 15. Last year, the carnival drew more than 520,000 visitors, with almost half coming from outside the region. The Carnaval has become the city’s biggest tourist draw.

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Last chance to win a Oregon Wintercation

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Enter for a chance to win one of Ten Oregon Wintercations
Oregon offers just as much winter as you are looking for. Looking to ski the steeps or the snowy forests? Just head to the craggy peaks and ski areas. Want to get away from the snow and freezing rain? Then you’ll enjoy the temperate climate of the western side of the state. Whether you’re looking to ride, slide or glide, we’ve got more options than you can shake a ski pole at. Enter to win one of ten Oregon Wintercations including a Ski Oregon grand prize getaway with four tickets from Alaska Airlines.

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To start planning your Oregon Wintercation,
visit TravelOregon.com
...and a chance to win a Ski Oregon grand prize getaway featuring 2 Alaska Airlines tickets!

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JetBlue requests customs facility at Long Beach

With the rains behind us, for now, a JetBlue takes off from Long Beach Airport with blue skies, snow caped mountains and the Boeing Co. office buildings behind it on a sunny morning.

With the rains behind us, for now, a JetBlue takes off from Long Beach Airport with blue skies, snow caped mountains and the Boeing Co. office buildings behind it on a sunny morning.

By Eric Bradley, Staff Writer

JetBlue on Monday formally requested Long Beach Airport apply for a federal customs facility, a move that would allow international travel at the city-owned airport.

In a letter sent to Airport Director Bryant Francis, Robert C. Land, JetBlue senior vice president for Government Affairs and associate general counsel, stated the airline has no interest in modifying the city’s airport noise ordinance.

“JetBlue will utilize only its current allotment of assigned Air Carrier slots and existing aircraft parking positions to fly internationally in addition to our current 11 domestic markets,” Land wrote.

Adding the customs facility, Land contended, would enhance Long Beach’s stature and improve the local economy through increased tourism, commerce and conventions.

“We look forward to working closely with the city to immediately proceed with the application process and begin the work required to secure an international flight designation for the city of Long Beach,” Land said.

A JetBlue representative said the company has nothing more to add at this time beyond the contents of the letter.

The Long Beach City Council hosted a study session last week on the 20-year-old airport noise ordinance effectively limiting flights to 41 commercial and 25 commuter flights daily.

City officials noted the ordinance has never been changed due to “lurking fear” the city could lose its grandfathered exemptions under the Federal Aircraft Compatibility Ordinance of 1990. Since the law’s passage, no other city has been successful in securing noise restrictions as stringent as those regulating aircraft at the Long Beach Airport.

On Monday, an airport spokeswoman, Stephanie Montuya-Morisky, confirmed the letter had been received but deferred comment to the City Manager’s office.

“We want to be as transparent as possible, and we want the discussion to happen at the City Council level,” Montuya-Morisky said.

Read more in Eric Bradley’s story CUSTOMS


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Quebec’s Hotel de Glace dazzles with its fanciful frozen decor

Quebec's Ice Hotel features guestrooms with elaborate carved walls, a bed made of ice and a fireplace for, though it's only for looks - no heat enters the room. (Photo courtesy Hotel de Glace)

The Hotel de Glace in Quebec features guestrooms with elaborate carved walls and a bed made of ice. Some, like this one, come with a fireplace, though it’s only for looks – no heat enters the room. (Photo courtesy Hotel de Glace)

By Marlene Greer
, Correspondent

The bed is made of ice, the walls and floor made of snow, and the ambient temperature is a brisk 24 degrees F. Sound like a place you’d like to spend the night? Surprisingly, many people do.

The Hotel de Glace (Ice Hotel), located a few miles from downtown Quebec, is an imaginative creation of snow and ice, reconstructed every winter in a matter of six or so weeks. From the grand entrance, complete with check-in counter, to the guestrooms, the walls of every room are intricately carved into masterpieces of art, and some of the beds feature massive ice canopies and elaborate headboards.

The hotel is open for overnight stays and to tourists from Jan. 5 to March 22. With 44 rooms, a vaulted hall with an amazing ice chandelier, chapel, bar, disco, and ice slide, there’s a lot to see. Visitors can walk around on their own or sign up for a tour.  We opted for the tour, which included a drink at the ice bar.

Like any hotel, the guestrooms range from the small and simple to elaborate suites with fireplaces, which are for ambience only as no heat enters the room. Most rooms come with an ice chair and ice table (can’t imagine spending much time there!) and have one to three beds. But all feature amazing sculpted decor, every one different from the last.

This year’s theme is “Space-Time,” and as visitors wander from room to room, they journey from ancient times into the future. On our tour, we saw one room depicting humankind’s space exploration with a relief of the Space Shuttle and a full-height sculpted astronaut, and another showcasing automobiles, complete with an ice car bed.

Our guide Sara explained that in the evening, the guestroom areas are closed to the public, cleaned and prepared for those staying overnight. A mattress and an isolating bed sheet are placed on the bed to keep the cold from seeping in, and each person is given an arctic sleeping bag. “We advise guests to take a warm shower before bed to increase the body temperature. This will help you stay warm throughout the night,” she said.

After visiting the entrance hall, several rooms, the chapel and disco, the tour ends at the ice bar – a popular stop apparently from the size of the crowd. Sara explained the beer, wine and alcohol are stored in refrigerators not to keep them cold but to keep them from freezing. Everything from the bar counter to the lounge chairs and tables are made of ice. Even the drinks are served in an ice glass, a bulky square block of ice with a hole in the center to hold the liquid.

The first ice hotel went up in 2001, and it’s been a popular winter attraction ever since. With the outside temperature only in the single digits, standing at a table in an ice bar enjoying a vodka and cranberry juice cocktail out of a frozen glass in an ice hotel at 24 degrees feels downright warm.

The ice bar at the Hotel de Glace. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

The ice bar at the Hotel de Glace. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

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Racing canoes on ice-covered St. Lawrence River among events at Quebec’s Winter Carnival

Two crews  in the elite male class compete in the ice canoe race on the St. Lawrence River. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

Two crews in the elite male class compete in the ice canoe race on the St. Lawrence River. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

By Marlene Greer, Correspondent

Standing on the edge of the St. Lawrence River watching a group of five women power their canoe over the ice-crusted surface, all I could think of was, “You go, ladies!”

The women are among the 10 teams of elite female crews competing in the ice canoe race, one of many events and competitions at the Winter Carnival in Quebec City. In addition to the women, there are 10 teams in the elite male class, and a whole lot of brave souls in the amateur sport class. (I stopped counting at 25 boats.)

From where we stand near the starting line, we can hear the canoes coming before we see them. We hear the voices of the crew, but mostly we hear the scraping of boats over ice. The ice on the river is broken up in huge blocks, and navigating them takes great physical effort and group coordination.

Wearing spiked shoes, holding on to the gunwale, and kneeling on one knee in the boat with the other leg dangling over the edge, the crews propel their canoes up and over the chunks of ice. The crews do this for half a mile up river before reaching flowing water where they jump in and start paddling.

For today’s race, the temperature is in the single digits, sinking into sub-zero with the fierce wind blowing across the river. But the cold weather doesn’t keep bundled-up spectators from lining the riverbank, four and five deep. Nor, apparently, does it bother the racers.

When I marvel at the utter craziness of it all, a native Quebecer standing next to me counters, “I’ve done it once; it’s a lot of fun!”

The ice canoe race is a carnival staple. It’s been held every year since the carnival’s inception in 1955. The first women’s team participated in the race in 1966. The race begins in Quebec City, and teams navigate a course across the river to Levis and back. The elite male class must complete the circuit twice.

So why a canoe race on a frozen river? According to the Quebec City Tourism website, carnival competitions were created to represent Quebec winter traditions. The canoe, dogsled and sleigh are traditional modes of transportation and were important to the settlement and history of Quebec.

Quebec’s winter carnival ends today with the sleigh races and the closing ceremonies.

A crew in the elite female class work to get their canoe across the ice. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

A crew in the elite female class work to get their canoe across the ice. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

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